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Dealing with anger

by Trace (follow)
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I was surprised and mildly amused by a story on last night's news of a man who was caught on a security camera slashing the tyres of a parked car.

Was he a thug? A drunken teenager looking for a cheap thrill? No, the perpetrator was an 82-year-old retirement home resident. He slashed the tyres of an elderly woman's car because she had taken his favourite chair at a weekly bingo game.

Angry cat by Tambako the Jaguar on Flickr
Source: Flickr - Kees Jonker

The intense emotional response of anger can make us do silly things that we later regret. At worst it can drive people to harm or even kill. Anger is a natural emotion that every human being has, it's how we work through that emotion or react to it that makes us different.

We're taught from an early age that getting angry is wrong: that we should calm down, forget about it, buck-up and put a smile back on our faces. But, is reacting to anger always wrong? Emotions such as anger have helped humans and many animal species to survive extinction. When angry, the human heart rate increases, causing an adrenaline surge which may make us feel stronger than usual. It's obvious how anger could have helped our ancestors to survive in dangerous situations.

Angry cat by Tambako the Jaguar on Flickr
Image source: Flickr - Tambako Jaguar

If anger is a natural human reaction designed to help us survive, when are we 'allowed' to be angry and what kind of reaction should we take? Many laws have been put in place to stop humans from acting out on their anger, but if someone is poking you with a stick continually, should you just walk away?

Thomas Jefferson once said, "When angry count to ten before you speak. If very angry, count to one hundred." These are wise words - as long as you're not about to get punched in the face. It could be helpful when you're angry to think about the motives of the perpetrator and to make sure that a desire for revenge is not part of your reaction. Protecting yourself from harm is one thing, but reacting with spite puts you on the same level as the perpetrator.

I'm guessing that the lady in the retirement home who had her tyres slashed didn't take the man's chair maliciously - can you picture her sniggering behind her bingo cards as she watches the man approach to see her comfortably lounging in his chair? But what if she did take it on purpose? What if it was the only chair close enough to the bingo caller to allow the man to hear the numbers being called, and the woman took it knowing that she would then have a chance of winning because the man couldn't hear?

Perhaps the man should have first counted to ten, before politely asking the woman whether he could swap chairs with her. Although, she could have every right to reply with something along the lines of "Too bad Grandpa, I got here first and you don't own that chair." It's easy to see how trivial matters can escalate...

Old lady
Source: Flickr by Ariel Leuenberger

The Mayo Clinic offers ten great tips on their website for controlling anger:

1. Think before you speak
2. Once you're calm, express your anger
3. Get some exercise
4. Take a 'time out'
5. Identify possible solutions
6. Stick with 'I' statements to avoid placing blame (e.g.: 'I'm upset that you took my chair' rather than 'You deliberately stole my chair')
7. Don't hold a grudge
8. Use humour to release tension
9. Practise relaxation skills
10. Know when to seek help

Do you have any great tips for controlling anger?

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